Higher Education Quick Takes
The American Philosophical Association has announced that, starting in 2015-16, the annual meeting of its Eastern Division will no longer take place in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, but will instead take place at the end of the first full week of January. Meetings during the post-Christmas week were in the past a tradition for many humanities scholars, as the Modern Language Association, like the philosophers, met that week. The theory was that one could get good deals at conference hotels, and nobody would have classes scheduled.
But the MLA has switched its meeting to the first week in January for the last two years, and no longer has scholars complaining about having to cut short their family vacations. The philosophers surveyed members, and found strong support for such a shift. (The philosophy association has regional meetings rather than a single national conclave, but the Eastern meeting is the closest to a national meeting, and features job interviews for colleges from across the country.)
Trudie Kibbe Reed is stepping down as president of Bethune-Cookman University, amid apparent board disagreements over whether her resignation should be accepted. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported her departure, confirmed by the board chair. The Orlando Sentinel, while also confirming her resignation, quoted a trustee as saying Reed had not resigned, and that the board had taken no action on her departure. (Reed did not respond to an e-mail message from Inside Higher Ed seeking clarification.) Reed has been praised for promoting growth at the historically black college. But the institution has seen controversies as well. An investigation by the American Association of University Professors found that the university violated the due process of faculty members who were fired after they were accused of sexual harassment. University officials disputed the AAUP's findings. Last year, the News-Journal reported that Bethune-Cookman was facing 12 lawsuits from ex-employees who say that they were fired inappropriately.
More than two dozen college associations, accrediting agencies and other organizations have endorsed a set of guidelines that they say show that they are committed to gathering evidence that their students are learning, the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability will announce today. The group, which for three years has been striving to get higher education leaders to agree on a set of goals and methods for using and reporting student learning outcomes, trumpets the new guidelines as a common "checklist" that institutions can and will use to "test whether they are actually doing what needs to be done about gathering, reporting, and using evidence of student learning," said David C. Paris, the group's executive director.
The Los Angeles Times continues to uncover problems in the management of building projects by the Los Angeles Community College District. The latest discovery: The company hired by the district to oversee $450 million in spending on the campus of Mission College took consulting fees from one of the contractors whose work it was supposed to be monitoring. While it was taking the consulting fees, the company signed off on payments to the contractor -- over the objections of architects and engineers who believed the billing was excessive.
The University of California at Los Angeles "wholly neglected its legal obligations" to provide safety in a laboratory where a fire resulted in the death of a lab assistant three years ago, according to a report from Cal/OSHA -- a state work safety agency -- that was obtained by The Los Angeles Times. The report said that the professor supervising the lab "simply disregarded the open and obvious dangers presented in this case and permitted Victim Sangji to work in a manner that knowingly caused her to be exposed to a serious and foreseeable risk of serious injury or death." UCLA has denied negligence in what it has portrayed as an accident. The professor who ran the lab and the University of California Board of Regents have been indicted on charges that they failed to adhere to appropriate safety standards.
Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, is today planning to introduce legislation that would limit the federal funds going to for-profit colleges for the education of veterans, The Chicago Tribune reported. The legislation would reduce from 90 to 85 percent the share of revenue for-profit colleges can receive from federal student aid funds. Further, the bill would count veterans benefits in that total, not just Education Department aid, as is currently the law. Durbin is among a number of lawmakers who have said that some for-profit colleges are taking advantage of veterans, who have generous education benefits. Brian Moran, interim president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, criticized the planned legislation. "Senator Durbin's reported legislation on recruiting will only cut off access for thousands of veterans to the skill-intensive, hands-on programming and intensive job-placement support that veterans transitioning into the workplace need," he said.
Two female Marist College students and a friend were killed in a fire early Saturday morning, when a fire spread through their house, The Journal News reported. Four other Marist students escaped the fire by jumping through windows.
On Sunday morning, seven Boston University students were hospitalized after a fire in their off-campus house, The Boston Globe reported.
The University of Tokyo is planning a shift over the next five years to a fall start for its academic year, The Japan Times reported. The issue has been under consideration for months -- and is seen as important by university leaders who want to promote more collaboration with Western institutions that start their academic years in the fall. The current schedule is also believed to discourage study abroad by Tokyo students, and the recruitment of foreign students to spend a semester at Tokyo. Given the stature of the University of Tokyo within Japanese higher education, its move is expected to influence many other institutions in the country to follow its lead.
A federal judge on Friday ordered Boston College to turn over to the government, to provide to British authorities, documents related to seven interview subjects in an oral history collection on the violence in Northern Ireland, The Boston Globe reported. An earlier order is the subject of a stay by a federal appeals court, which is currently reviewing the legal issues in the case. The British government, citing a treaty with the United States, says that the documents could help with ongoing criminal investigations. But many historians have been alarmed by the case, saying that forcing Boston College to release the documents could discourage people from participating in oral history interviews. The interviews at Boston College, like those in many such oral history collections, were intended for release only after specified time periods, such as the death of those who spoke with researchers.